Diego Rossi’s sold out dinner in Saint Petersburg

The chef from Trippa was among the guests in the third edition of the Gourmet Days festival. With his creations, he charmed the audience

15-07-2019
Left to right: the founder of Beef Zavod Maxim T

Left to right: the founder of Beef Zavod Maxim Torganov, his partner, Diego Rossi and Federico Sisti. A few days ago, the chef from Trippa cooked in this restaurant in Saint Petersburg, as guest of the Gourmet Days

The sun was shining, a few days ago in Saint Petersburg, for the opening of the third edition of Gourmet Days: the festival summons the best restaurants in town and a rich selection of chefs who, from every corner of the globe, gathered here in the second week of June, so as to give a well-deserved visibility to the fermenting culinary scene. 

Indeed, there have been many openings in town, and of high standards: it is no coincidence that in the World’s 50Best 2019, between number 51 and 120, we find two young restaurants from Saint Petersburg. The more fine dining one, Cococo (Gabriele Zanatta wrote about it a couple of years ago), at number 108, and the more original one, Harvest, at number 91. We will cover them soon in a separate article.

Diego Rossi and Federico Sisti at work at Beef Zavod

Diego Rossi and Federico Sisti at work at Beef Zavod

The programme of Gourmet Days in Saint Petersburg mostly includes international chefs, invited to cook in the best restaurants in the town of the White Nights. This year the schedule included plenty of interesting names: from American in Bangkok Tim Butler (Eat Me) to Singapore’s starred chef Ivan Bremh (Nouri), from Paris-based Japanese Atsushi Tanaka (A.T.) to Taiwanese Richie Lin (Mume). With an Italian guest too: Diego Rossi from Trippa in Milan, who on this occasion went with his dear friend Federico Sisti, chef at Osteria del Ronchettino, also in Milan.

Maxim Torganov

Maxim Torganov

«I surely was not expecting such a rich scene - Diego Rossi told us -, I sensed a great ferment, there are many young chefs who are trying to work hard, to stand out, despite the political issues, especially with the embargo, that one has in Russia. I discovered with interest that Russian cuisine is in fact a mosaic of different styles, Georgian, Armenian, and the genuine Russian one. But most of all there’s a strong desire to open up to the world, to be contemporary, which allows these places to be very up-to-date in terms of the most interesting international trends. I visited a brewery that is doing a remarkable job with craft beers and I was pleased to notice that natural wines are very popular in Saint Petersburg». Thoughts which we share. 

A selection of cured meat produced at Beef Zavod

A selection of cured meat produced at Beef Zavod

Diego Rossi was invited to cook in a restaurant he liked right from the start: it’s called Beef Zavod and it’s a bit outside the centre of Saint Petersburg (which is in any case a huge city, where it’s hard to tell where the centre really ends…). It was born from the passionate work of Maxim Torganov, who, following his desire to spread in Russia the meat culture and in particular the culture of steaks and grills, travelled around the world for his training.

Scallops with cucumbers, peas, coriander and mint 

Scallops with cucumbers, peas, coriander and mint 

«In Russia there’s never been such a tradition: so much so that nobody knew the right cuts of meat». On his road, however, Torganov came across some excellent teachers: above all, Italian Dario Cecchini, the butcher and guru from Ponzano in Chianti, who noticed Maxim’s sincere passion and took him under his wing, introducing him to other famous colleagues, such as Parisian Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec

Lamb tartare with pecorino and bottarga

Lamb tartare with pecorino and bottarga

Once back in Russia, he founded Beef Zavod: a place with a charming design coherent with its name (which means “meat factory”), hence with various aesthetic touches that hint at butchering tools and techniques. With a lab in which cured meat is prepared in the Russian style, but most of all in the Italian and European ones (including an excellent bresaola and a delicious beef-based salami), a large room for the maturation of the cattle, with US-built grills that support the perfect cooking on wood embers, a beautiful wine list in which, as Diego Rossipointed out, natural wines stand out. 

There are many affinities between the approaches of the chef from Trippa and the one of Beef Zavod: especially the utmost respect for the animals. Here they slaughter animals only when they’re adult, over 5 years old, and use everything, with the “nose to tail” approach. 

Federico Sisti while dishing out the sides for Peposo di guancia

Federico Sisti while dishing out the sides for Peposo di guancia

Rossi presented three dishes to the Russian guests – it was a sold out, with people queuing outside, hoping to find a tiny place (it felt like we were in Milan, in front of the Trippa’s entrance…) – while the other two dishes in the menu were prepared by the hosting kitchen. Among them, a truly exquisite scallop stood out, presented in an aromatic and fresh dish with cucumbers, mint, and fresh peas. 

The first tasting of Rossi’s cuisine in Saint Petersburg was Lamb tartare (at Trippa the dish is made with sheep, but at Beef Zavod they only had some excellent lamb) with pecorino and bottarga. And though the Russian palate is accustomed to very richly seasoned steak tartares, the essential offer of the Venetian chef charmed them. But his greatest intuition arrived with the following dish.

A small part of the sides served by Diego Rossi

A small part of the sides served by Diego Rossi

«Before arriving –Diego said – I simply said we’d make Peposo with beef cheek. But I already knew I’d offer a series of vegetal side dishes, which in my mind were in fact the main dish. First, however, I wanted to find out what kind of products I’d be able to use». Here comes the nice surprise: the raw materials used for cooking in Saint Petersburg are often excellent.

«I was really impressed, for instance, by these tomatoes from Azerbaijan, full of flavour and aroma. So I decided to present them in a salad, with some delicious strawberries. Then we went to the market and I tasted the cheese: I chose a local blue cheese, which I used in a fondue with beetroot, and a sort of mascarpone cheese that I used as a sauce for the grilled asparagus».

Selfie and fun after the dinner 

Selfie and fun after the dinner 

And then there was Cream of aubergines with paprika and vinegarSavoy cabbage salad with melon and smoked sauceRoasted onions with pomegranate reduction, grapes and toasted pumpkin seedsApricot and spinach salad with hazelnut and honey dressing. Dishes meant to be shared, which crowded the tables at Beef Zavod for the amusement and praise of the guests.

Just the time to end with a classic dessert from Trippa - Mousse of yogurt with chestnut honey, pollen and camomile – and then Diego Rossi and Federico Sisti were celebrated by the audience, what with endless selfies, dances and great laughs, a proof of this successful experience away from home.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


Sections

Dal Mondo

Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose